Given the national and strategic importance of U.S. dairy exports, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), both headquartered in Arlington, Va., said they released on Nov. 12 an executive summary of their recent detailed analysis of the intricate web of global trade barriers that are hampering overseas dairy sales. The information aims to better inform and guide the work of the incoming administration and other policymakers.

The detailed submission to the United States Trade Representative's (USTR) office made late last month was created as part of the USTR's annual call for input to inform its National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers. It outlined nearly 40 pages worth of various challenges and opportunities facing U.S. dairy exports in more than 30 foreign markets, USDEC and NMPF said.

"Exports are essential to the economic survival of our industry, and it is important U.S. trade negotiators fully understand all of the trade-distorting tricks used to keep high-quality U.S. dairy products out of global markets," said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. "The USTR has worked hard to address many of these barriers, and USDEC members have benefited from our broad approach to handling issues ranging from trade policy to regulatory hurdles. We stand ready to continue our work alongside USTR and USDA to address these and future trade barriers."

More than $6 billion of dairy products were exported in 2019, accounting for 15% of all U.S. milk production, with more potential to serve consumers overseas and create dairy jobs at home, the organizations noted.

"Our comments to the USTR provide a road map for dozens of opportunities to create a more level and consistent global playing field for the U.S. dairy sector," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. "The best avenue to stamp out many of these trade tactics that disadvantage American-made dairy products is to strongly convey the message that foreign restrictions on U.S. agriculture must end and that new trade agreements that dismantle trade barriers and put America's dairy industry on a level playing field are necessary."

The industry's submission dedicated the most attention to key markets where trade barriers are limiting U.S. market access, including China and Europe. Foreign countries use policies including high tariffs, retaliatory duties, geographic indications, import licensing and unscientific health requirements to keep U.S. goods at bay, USDEC and NMPF said. The submission also focused on the importance of enforcing hard-won gains under existing free-trade agreements, particularly the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

NMPF and USDEC said the United States should prioritize trade deals most likely to yield net positive benefits for dairy and agriculture, such as with the United Kingdom and key Asian markets, including those in Southeast Asia.